Who were the major players in the Korean War?
North and South Korea, the United States and China.
Who were the major players in the Korean War.Well north and south Korea obviously.But behind North Korea was Communist China and the Soviet Union.China and Russia gave North Korea lots of arms and supplies.China even sent thousands of troops.Soviet pilots flew MIG 15 fighters.I think soviet experts also operated radar and anti aircraft guns,and officers acted as adivers to the army.
Backing South Korea was ,in theory the whole of the United Nations because the Soviets were absent from the security council when the war started,they were protesting against the exclusion of China from the UN.Given that North Korea was a soviet ally it seems crazy that the soviets failed to be at the UN to vote against the UN voting to send troops to defend South Korea.Anyway the UN asked for troops to go to Korea and the first to go were US troops from Japan.They had poor equipment and were unfit due to having been not doing very much in peaceful Japan.Britain was the next state to send troops,and in the end was the second bigest contributor to the UN force.Canada,Australia,Turkey,Ethiopia,Philippines all sent troops.Britain sent ships and South Africa sent planes.The vast majority of troops were American but not all.Try THE KOREAN WAR by Max Hastings for a non American but well rounded view of the war.Most other books are written by Americans who only seem to know about American forces.
If i were to add to the above, I think that China's role was largely rooted in the self interest of protecting its southern border with North Korea. I don't know how coordinated China and Russia's support was. Also, did North Korea see these greater powers simply as benefactors they could leverage. The writer above points out the UN element and recognition of China. The Chinese gov't logically saw the US as an enemy given our historical support for a government Mao saw as corrupt and worth fighting and dying over control of the country. We did not see eye to eye with Communist China and were on the wrong side based on the outcome of their civil war. North Korea had a tighter alignment w/ Soviet Union, but only as a pawn in the post WWII balance of power conflict. Research and historical information shows that North Korea's importance to the Soviet Union was not significant, but they took interest in the North as a tool for testing US resolve and maybe measuring China. The motivations for invading the South is a more interesting question because it addresses the history of Korea - it's reduction to a property of Japan in exchange for protection (in the 10's - 20's?). I'm not certain if protection was from China, or generally other outside influence. Or, really, did Japan say, come peacefully, or we will take you. I think the North would have said, no - we fight. The south and the power structure favored appeasement. Korea had a historical link to China which had some benefit, but they were backed into cutting a deal w/ Japan. The North, it's said, suffered more under this relationship w/ Japan and resented the South for its capitulation and sellout to Japan (this goes back to the Sino Japanese war in the 1910's or 20's.) The North's suffering is largely due to differences in cultures in the northern part and the southern part. Koreans have described to me that the North was largely less educated, more rural and usable (and thus abusable) as a factor of production for Japan. Maybe an analogy is the US North and South whereby the South with slavery and agricultural bend, was simply a resource that the Japanese could abuse for it's own wealth creation. The South was more developed and ended up having relatively more to offer Japan as a manager of Japanese interests. This may have softened the nature of their penury under the Japanese yoke. After the WWII, the north understandably wanted to control the peninsula given the defeat of Japan and prevent future outside influence that they feared would injure them again. They would shed their brother's blood to achieve this. Douglas MacArthur was an influential and controversial figure that did not pay the proper attention to the settlement that created North/South as a spoil of war for the victors (Russia, US). He was occupied as the acting governor of Japan and incorrectly assessed the volatility on the peninsula. Then, getting back to China, after most of the peninsula was lost to the North, MacArthur rescued it thru an invasion at Inchon and instead of suing for peace, disobeyed orders and pushed way north toward the Yalu. Truman feared WWIII w/ China because China had internally changed its form of government thru a Civil War where the US supported the losing side. MacArthur was removed from command by Truman. China probably feared US retribution and intentions. We sent billions in arms to Chiang Kai Shek which was largely a waste. We were an enemy to the winning side. In fact, ironically, the communist probably supported US support of Shek, because his army was weak and it was said, often retreated in haste, would not fight, and left arms (US paid for weaponry) that was usable by Mao's army. The motivation of Mao and the Chinese proletariat was to remove Shek because of the horrors it endured during WWII at the hands of the Japanese and an enabling policy of openess to the West (US) and other powers along with other notable disparities created by Shek's government. It was viewed as corrupt and abusive to the vast majority of people. Given the horrors China suffered at the hands of the Japanese (which probably makes the Nazi regime's agression and murder of Jewish people pale in comparison - 20 million dead) Mao wanted to close down China to foreigners. Russia supported the North, and China feared pressure on the Southern Border. To the Chinese, both the US and Russia had the potential for disrupting China. In the end, and I have not read a lot, I think all parties - of course - acted for their own interests. But China and North Korea's end games were very similar. Get rid of outside influences of any source of external influence (Japan to Korea & US, Russia, Japan to China). For the North it meant controlling the peninsula. Much like Viet Nam in later years, it was about self-determination, prevention of what happened in the past, control of their own destiny and to some extent, some punishing of the South for what the North felt they were responsible for. With proper handling and recognition the war may have been avoided. American mothers and families lost sons in this fight. If there is a saving grace, we can tell ourselves we supported a more free enterprise in the South with our sons and taxpayer money, that has led to a free South Korea. Did we do it out of the principle of freedom, or at least that the South's freedom would benefit us down the road? Did we do it more to check Russia (without regard for the impact positive or negative to the South)? I think that there is/was no affinity for the people of Korea. What were we told were the reasons for fighting this fight and were they honest motivations? It's easy to see an American soldier resent and hate Korea and it's people because it took him away from his home and family. We can argue we were on the winning side, because we protected the South and look what is has become. Anti-Korean (some race based) views/opinions may have been softened over the years by what I would call an unflinching gratitude to the US from the South and a better understanding of Korea. As well as their modernization from third world to a developed nation. For ever and ever we will debate as we do with conflicts around the globe, is it worth our resources. I would be hard pressed if my son (or anyone's son) died there to take comfort in that. I would do my best to steer him away from war: Largely out of my own self interest, but also because i think it can be avoided or and this is where i wonder if i'm a hypocrite, let someone else fight it. But from a humanitarian standpoint, could i tell myself, many more South Korean children grew up to a better life than if we did nothing and let the North win and my dead son helped that?
I'd be interested if people who know the history of Korea and the war find this reasonably accurate. My basis for knowledge is a partial read of Halberstam's The Coldest Winter and a general history background.